Foods and drinks to avoid during pregnancy

Written by    Last updated: September 12, 2007

There are a great many myths surrounding the types of foods that should be avoided during pregnancy, some of which have factual evidence to back them up. Others are due more to rumour and old wives’ tales. In reality there are not many food groups that should be avoided entirely during pregnancy…diet during pregnancy

Find out what your diet should exclude while you’re expecting a baby…

There are a great many myths surrounding the types of foods that should be avoided during pregnancy, some of which have factual evidence to back them up. Others are due more to rumour and old wives’ tales. In reality there are not many food groups that should be avoided entirely during pregnancy, it is generally a case of being careful with food preparation rather than avoidance. Make sure that the food preparation area is clean, and that your hands are washed before coming into contact with food. Be sure that food is kept cold enough while it is in the fridge or freezer, and that it is fully heated before eating. It is also a good idea to keep pets and young children out of the kitchen, partly as they can break concentration and cause mistakes to be made, and partly because animals can harbour bacteria that are only dangerous if they are consumed on food. It is also important to keep an eye on the freshness of food, and the use/eat by dates. Food that is only slightly out of date may present health risks to anyone eating them, and this is not safe during pregnancy.

Food

Cheeses: Avoid soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert, and blue veined cheeses such as Roquefort and Stilton. Also to be avoided are unpasteurised soft cheeses made of goat’s or sheep’s milk. All of theses cheeses may carry listeria, a bacteria that can make you feel, or become sick. More seriously it can also cause miscarriage, stillbirth or illness in the unborn child. Hard cheeses are safe, however, including Cheddar, any hard smoked cheeses, Feta, Parmesan and Mozzarella (making most pizzas safe). Cottage cheese is safe, as are Philadelphia and Boursin, which have the texture of a soft cheese and may be good substitutes for the more dangerous products.

Eggs: Raw or undercooked eggs should be avoided as they may contain salmonella. Freshly made mayonnaise containing raw egg should also be avoided. Soft‐boiled eggs are also unsafe, as the yolk is not fully cooked. Hard‐boiled eggs, however, are safe, as long as they have been cooked for the correct length of time.

Fruit: Be sure to wash all fruits before eating, as bacteria are often found on the skins.

Ice Cream: There are two types of ice cream that should be avoided during pregnancy. The first is any type made with raw eggs. These are usually the more traditional type of product, and may come in any flavour. The second type is the soft white type often bought at the seaside or from vans. While the ice cream itself is safe, the machines from which it is dispensed can harbour bacteria. As it is impossible to guarantee the cleanliness of these machines, it is safer to avoid this type of ice cream altogether.

Liver: Liver and products containing liver should not be eaten as they contain large amounts of Retinol. This is the animal form of vitamin A, and can be dangerous to the unborn baby if received in high quantities.

Meat: Any raw, rare or undercooked meat should not be eaten during pregnancy as they may contain bugs such as toxoplasmosis or salmonella. These bacteria can be hazardous to both mother and baby. Make sure that all meat products are thoroughly cooked before eating.

Pâté: All types of pâté should be avoided, whether of meat, fish or vegetable origin.

Peanuts: This is the only kind of nut that has been linked to causing dramatic reactions in those susceptible to this kind of allergy. The only reason for pregnant women to avoid peanuts is if there is a history of food allergies, asthma or severe hay fever in her family. If either of the couple is even slightly allergic to peanuts, they should be avoided during pregnancy, as there is an increased risk of there being a reaction in the unborn baby. If there is no history of allergic reaction in the family, there is no reason why peanuts should be avoided, although some women choose to avoid them just in case.

Ready Meals: The main problem with these types of meals is that they are kept at refrigerator temperature after being cooked. This is an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive, and incomplete reheating will not kill all of the bugs. The only way to avoid these dangers is to ensure food is cooked thoroughly and  not stored for long periods of time.

Salad: Be sure to wash all salad items before eating, as the skins of vegetables can harbour bacteria.

Shellfish: Shellfish are only unsafe if they are out of date or undercooked. Careful handling should ensure that problems are eliminated. Avoid oysters and other raw shellfish.

Vegetables: As with fruit and salad items, vegetables should be washed before use, as the skins can harbour bacteria.

Drink

Caffeine: Small quantities are quite safe, but prolonged high usage could be dangerous. Caffeine is a diuretic, and can cause dehydration in the mother if taken in large quantities. It is also a stimulant that can cause a reaction in the baby.

Alcohol: This is a thorny issue. Some say that no alcohol whatsoever should be consumed during pregnancy, others believe that a few units per week are acceptable, as long as they are spread out. It is believed that alcohol can be passed from mother to baby, and there is ongoing research to find out whether there is any damage done to the foetus if it encounters alcohol. The advice is generally to avoid it during pregnancy and even throughout breastfeeding.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used as the sole basis for comprehensive dietary advice. Confetti has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for dietary advice whilst pregnant.

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